Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Van Gogh

I turned the corner, paused, took a breath in and stared. Just moments earlier a woman stopped next to me on my bike and asked if I wanted tickets to see the sold out Van Gogh exhibit at the De Young. Without hesitation I said yes, and was soon surrounded by art that rarely leaves the Musee d'Orsay.

I love Post-Impressionist art, I also love Impressionist art, but that turn just at the end is my favorite, and Van Gogh is my absolute favorite. I am not exaggerating, when I am in the presence of his art I find it hard to breath, I loose my words and I am blissfully overwhelmed.

The artists who I find most inspiring are Van Gogh and Frida Kahlo; two very different artist from very different times.

I have expressed my love for Frida before; I love her honesty and how she forces you to feel her suffering. I love it; it is also offensive. She inflicts her agony upon the viewer, and I both love and hate her for that.

However, Van Gogh gives the viewer permission to experience his torment or to ignore it. I can glimpse into the life of an artist, exhausted and troubled or I can see a simple self portrait . I can observe the hallucination of a man losing his mind or I can see stars. I am allowed to choose how I engage with the art. It is no less honest, but it more guarded without being less vulnerable. As Frida forces you to observe her strength, Van Gogh invites you to empathize with his desperation.

I am inspired by the intricate balance of vulnerability without overexposure. There is something breathtaking about the tension of his brush strokes that says so much more than the image itself. You can feel the control in the methodology of his painting as if observing a man clutching to some semblance of sanity with each movement, and if you see the work as it progresses you can watch him loose the control he is trying intently to maintain. His work is better for it, even if it did drive him insane.

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